“Human sexuality is not an either/or proposition, and trying to deny its complexity is going to make both you and your partner miserable.” - John Green (something to think about)
As Kenny's comment on my last post reminded me, it is rather difficult to fathom a 10 (and counting)-book series that doesn't degrade into word-soup by the end. Most get bad around book 3 or 4.
One of the things that makes Ranger's Apprentice unique is the "nature of its conception." John Flanagan didn't sit down and go "Oh, I think I'll write a book" and then a year later "Hm. I'll write a sequel" and so on. The series began when his son was 8 years old (he's in either his 20s or 30s now) and didn't like to read. Flanagan began writing his son short stories about a boy rather like him-- kind of small, not built for being a knight at any rate-- who shared his interests-- archery and knife-throwing. He gave his son one of these short stories every Friday afternoon. One week, his son appeared at his window and said "Dad, where's my story?" and he knew that he had succeeded. The short stories didn't grow into novels until much later-- and each novel does indeed contain elements of one or more of these original stories.
Books 1 and 2 go together plot-wise, as do 3 and 4, as well as 5 and 6, and 8 and 9. 7 is out of order in terms of the time-line, because he realized he'd left out an important time in the main character (Will)'s life, so it stands alone. The plots aren't really based around "Oh no, the Rangers have to save the kingdom!". Sure, sometimes they do, but they're very much driven by the characters (and the bonds between them). The books really don't get worse over time, as difficult as that may be to accept.
As I said yesterday, Will's mentor Halt is one of my favorite characters ever (EVER), and the relationship between the two of them is something that everyone will become very attached to as they watch it develop over the course of the series. That's really the driving force of the entire thing, and it does it well. The interplay between the two of them and their knight friend Horace is hilarious.
The kingdom of Araluen (yes, it is a very obvious parallel of England-- get over it) views the Rangers as near-gods capable of anything. They aren't, of course, but they're still incredibly awesome, using their knowledge and cleverness (and archery skills) to do the things that a laymen would assume were only possible using magic. And that just makes what they do even more impressive.
In conclusion, I want to be a Ranger when I grow up (and I'm the same age as Will when he started his apprenticeship! RANGERS OF NORTH CAROLINA, SHOW YOURSELVES!), and the world of Araluen is a wonderful place with wonderful characters in which you should definitely want to spend hours of your time. I cannot express to you just how much I recommend these books. They really are some of my favorites ever (and I'm not just saying that because the author expressed interest in my own book, no I'm not no I'm not no I'm not).